Thursday, July 19, 2012

Angst and Other Things Authorly by Peg Brantley

My guest today is Colorado native, Peg Brantley, a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. She and her husband make their home southeast of Denver, sharing it with the occasional pair of mallard ducks and their babies, snapping turtles, peacocks, assorted other birds, foxes and a deer named Cedric. 

Red Tide is Peg’s first novel. Her second will be released in late 2012.


 Angst and Other Things Authorly by Peg Brantley

When I slid over to the serious side of writing in 2004 and began learning a little bit about the craft, it became necessary to suck “Id” up and let other people read the words I’d written. The wait was terrible as my critique partners made their way through what was certainly mangled and bruised and very purple-y colored prose.

Fast-forward eight years to the beginning of 2012 when my first novel was published. I was torn between wanting everyone to read it and hoping no one would. People who knew me and had certain expectations of my abilities would read my book—and I would no longer be able to fool them. They would shake their heads at how easily they’d been conned. Publishing a book that proved I was not really as talented as I pretended was a very different way to come out of the intellectual closet. Almost as bad was the thought that complete strangers would read my novel and pass judgment on me within minutes. They wouldn’t even give themselves a chance to get to know the phony me. The angst loomed so large that I questioned any positive comments believing they were merely politely phrased pity.

So now, here I am, a couple of months away from the release date for novel number two. (No, I don’t write that fast. This was a manuscript that was written prior to Red Tide. I just needed to go back and apply things I’d learned.) I’m sure I’m going to disappoint some people who have been waiting for a series. (Go figure. I guess they did like the book.) I’m using the same fictional town but different characters. I’m going to disappoint some people who expect another thriller. Number two is a police procedural. And there’s only one dog in it and he’s not exactly in the spotlight. (Red Tide has some hero-dogs.)

The angst began early for this one and it’s building. I’ve sent the book out to beta readers. Some of their feedback has come back and when there are pages and pages without comment I’m sure they were bored and skipping things. I lost the pace or the story or whatever and therefore, I lost a reader. Never mind that I asked my enlisted volunteers to watch for that sort of thing in particular. Never mind that they tell me they loved those pages. I’m convinced I’m doomed.

The next item on the agenda is a professional edit and then it will be time for that huge and final, no-going-back step. The step that requires me to jump off a cliff and knit wings on the way down.

The step that requires me to trust the process. Trust that my meshing of words will find the audience they were meant to find. Trust that my book will provide as much entertainment as the next author’s. Trust that I will live to take another breath and write another book and have the wonderful opportunity to be just as unsure about everything all over again.

Whatever it is you do in your life, if you feel moments where you are vulnerable and scared, then you’re doing something significant. It might be as large as saving thousands of lives, or as small as writing a book that gives people a few hours of escape into someone else’s life.

I’ve come to embrace my angst. Well, sort of. But I’ve pretty much concluded that if the angst leaves entirely, it might be time to move on.

 How about you? Are you ever filled with angst? Or a little bit of dread? I’d sure love to have some company.

Pat, thank you so very much for allowing me to be a little neurotic on your blog. I think it may have helped me work through my latest issues. If you’d like, you can bill me.


No charge, Peg. Most of our readers will understand exactly what you're writing about and feel relieved they're not alone. It's kind of crazy that we can feel this way and still go back to do it over and over again. 

For more information about Peg and her writing, visit her blog, Suspense Novelist.  She can also be found on Facebook and her author Facebook page. On Twitter she is @PegBrantley.

Now, we have a little surprise for those who leave a comment on this post before midnight tomorrow (Friday, July 20th) Mountain Time. Peg will be giving away one copy of Red Tide. I'll use to select a winner from the comment list, and I'll announce the winner in my Saturday post.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Peg.

Peg - Thanks for sharing your experiences. I think you're right that angst is really a part of the process of writing. Harnessing it helps us to focus on the work. I think though that it's a good servant but a bad master as the saying goes. Allowing it to dominate can keep one from going ahead and finishing that story.

lizy-expat-writer said...

Oh for heavens sake! Publishing a book that would prove you were not talented? Getting a book published AT ALL proves you ARE talented. We should all be so fortunate!

Peg Brantley said...

Pat, thanks for hosting me.

Margot, you're right. Too much anxiety can make us freeze up, but a little is maybe a good thing.

Lizy, I just want to HUG you! Thanks.

Jaden Terrell said...

Peg, you're not alone in your angst. I feel it all the time. A few days ago, an error in my 2nd book was pointed out to me. If I'd found out about it even a few hours sooner, we could have fixed it, but the book had just gone to print. I spend all last night feeling queasy and teary, sure that everyone would catch that error and hate the whole book because of it, and my writing career would go down in flames. But all I can really do is make double sure to do better on the next one.

I think all writers have angst. Even Tim Hallinan, one of my favorite writers in the world, admitted to me that he's always convinced THIS book is the one that is going to be horrible. It never is.

carl brookins said...

It has been suggested that writing/publishing fiction is akin to stripping on the public street corner. Second guessing, second thoughts, all part of the package sometimes called angst. I sometimes feel the same way about the reviews I write. My unsolicited advice to writers who ask (few) is to suck it up, soldier on, (want more cliches?) and use these feelings we call angst to bolster our will to continue and get better.

Peg Brantley said...

Jaden, I hate when people find errors I missed, my editor missed, my proofreader missed… how do we miss these things? But the same people who tell me about the errors (and I appreciatae it when they do) also tell me they loved the book. I'm absolutely positive that IF readers find the error in yours it won't make one whit of difference in their love of your book.

Stripping on the street corner. Yep. My guess is that's one reason why everyone doesn't write a book. And now I know what I'm gonna dream about tonight. Thanks, Carl. *grin*

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hmmm. I hadn't thought of it as stripping on the street corner. Now I understand why I'm so reluctant to declare a manuscript finished and start sending it out. What if people laugh??? :D

Peg Brantley said...

Well, if it's a humorous manuscript I'd say you have a winner.

My biggest is/was pity. I suppose I could throw a pity party… fully clothed, of course. ;-)

Lynn Proctor said...

i can surely identify with you--your book sounds wonderful :)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I always have angst waiting for the reviews to come out on a new novel--or fear of lack of reviews.
It's not so much that I personally care what they say, it's that I know there won't be orders if the novel isn't well-reviewed. I was very relieved when the newest one, Death Legacy, received excellent reviews from Publishers Weekly as well as Booklist. But I sweated them out! Best of luck with your new book,

Jacqueline Seewald

Peg Brantley said...

Lynn, thank you. One of the things I've learned is that not everybody likes the same thing in their books. And I'm okay with that. It would be a boring world if everyone felt and thought the same.

Jacqueline, what can I say? To get a review by PW or Booklist??? Excellent or otherwise? Clearly you have some books of significance to offer people. As a brand new author, I never realized how important reviews were. And the individual reviews can be as impactful to sales as the professional ones.

Anonymous said...

Embrace the angst. You have created and we live to create. And remember my motto when those ugly reviews get you down. Go look up some of the reviews for your favorite authors. Misery loves company. Angst can be calmed.

Peg Brantley said...

You're right, Lala. We are not in a bubble all by ourselves, and when we see the angst and frustration others have to deal with, we can finally see that we share this vulnerable space.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Peg, for a great post and for being here today to respond to comments. The post will stay at the top of the page through tomorrow, and that usually means more comments and entries for the book giveaway.

And thanks to all of today's visitors for the great comments. We'll announce the winner of the book giveaway on Saturday.

Shannon Baker said...

Get out of my head!! You've described it exactly.

Claire L. Fishback said...

Great post, Peg! I'm full of angst even in writing a first draft! I have to remind myself it is a first draft and will only get better from here (I hope!)

Thank you and you are not alone!

Claire L. Fishback

Peg Brantley said...

Shannon, I must have been channeling you. Would you please be more positive in the future? *wink*

Thanks, Claire. It's nice to know I'm not alone. Funny… when I first began learning how to write, I knew my first draft was fabulous. Now that I know a little more, not only is the first draft horrible, but often the third one is as well.

Darla said...

Oh yeah. Angst here. :-) And I'm always reassured to know that others have pushed through it to continue their efforts, so thanks, Peg!

One of my favorite recent quotes related to this:

"Courage is all about riding the tiger even if others might see the tiger as no more than a little pussycat." Ian White, ABFE

Peg Brantley said...

That's a terrific quote, Darla. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. To stand on that street corner Carl talks about and trust the process. Just Be. If you haven't done it, you can't possibly get how much courage it really takes.

My favorite quote, related to EVERYTHING is this one (and I've tried and tried to find its source):

"The chief cause of unhappiness is giving up what you want the most for what you want at the moment."

Peg Brantley said...

I want to thank everyone for leaving a comment. Margot's book is ready to be mailed to her next week—tomorrow if my plans hold up.

I hope you've all had a perfect weekend and I'd love to see you on Facebook!